New murals at fitness center commemorate service members

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman J. Michael Peña
  • Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Public Affairs

After completing recent renovations, the Buckner Fitness Center has reopened with new murals illustrating various missions and service members at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

These new murals showed aircraft, such as the F-22 Raptor and the C-17 Globemaster III, but primarily featured the paratroopers of the 11th Airborne Division conducting airborne operations in the field.

“Here at Buckner, we like to create a culture,” said John Limon, the Buckner Fitness Center director. “I wanted people to see what we’re doing here and understand that it’s bigger than all of us.”

Limon said he wanted the murals to inspire service members to visit the fitness center more often and push themselves harder during their workouts. He hopes by commemorating service members and the unique operations conducted at JBER, they would take more pride in what they do.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Madeleine Utz, a squad leader of Breacher Company, 6th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 11th Airborne Division, is featured in the mural, depicted alongside her fellow Soldiers during a jump composed entirely of female paratroopers and jumpmasters in commemoration of Women’s History Month.

“When I first saw my picture displayed on the new mural at Buckner, I was extremely honored,” said Utz. “It’s so exciting to be able to represent Breacher Company and the 6th BEB while showcasing what we do best: being paratroopers.”

U.S. Army Pfc. Mitchell Beeman, an information technology specialist assigned to the 307th Expeditionary Signal Battalion (Enhanced), visits the Buckner Fitness Center every day after work. After the renovations, Beeman said he appreciated the changes made to the fitness center and the sense of identity it gives to the Soldiers at JBER.

“I think the mural in Buckner really shows what it means to be part of the mission here in Alaska,” said Beeman. “After the 11th Airborne Division’s reactivation, I feel like these really are the ‘Arctic Angels,’ not just paratroopers.”

According to Limon, the Buckner Fitness Center has seen over 700,000 visitors this year so far, an upward trend that looks to surpass the estimated 800,000 yearly visits seen prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Limon said he and his team are always trying to find new ways to get more service members in the gym and keep them coming back.

“To me, fitness centers are the anchors of your military installations, and that’s because it shows the investment into our service members' well-being,” said Limon. “We need to have an enormous and measurable impact on our troops; to show them they can rely on our gyms as a place to decompress and train.”